Your new ShareASale affiliate program just launched, Hooray! What an exciting feeling it is to anticipate all the new relationships that will begin and the new customers that these relationships will bring. Affiliate Marketing is the greatest!
I love the enthusiasm and while I don’t disagree with any of it, I do like to caution new accounts to make sure they have all their metaphorical ducks in a row before opening the flood gates to every Affiliate. This is your brand after all, and you’ve worked hard to establish a great name for your business. Just like you carefully and meticulously grew your online business, you will want to do the same due diligence with your affiliate program.
The due diligence I am referring to is taking the time to lay out a few program guidelines for your Affiliates. Think about what kinds of marketing and advertising you want to allow your Affiliates to do. These guidelines or rules will be laid out in your program agreement which is your legally binding contract with Affiliates.
Without an agreement, your program technically and legally speaking has no restrictions.
If you launch a program without specific terms or restrictions in place, it is likely that one of the first types of sales you see coming through the program will be generated from PPC Affiliates who have taken out paid search ads on your brand name. Why? Well, often times this is a type of a sale that converts really well for Affiliates because shopper may already be looking for your brand name on search engines. Also, if your brand is smaller or lesser know, chances are the ads are inexpensive. When Affiliates take out paid search ads on a Merchant’s URL or brand name, this is commonly referred to as trademark bidding.
How do you know if Affiliates are generating sales through trademark bidding?
- Check the Page Banner was Clicked From Info. In your transaction detail report, take a look at the URL listed with the “Page Banner was Clicked From”. If we’re able to capture the data, the website address listed here will be where the consumer was prior to clicking over to your site. Let’s assume my website is www.ILoveHighFives.com. If an Affiliate has paid ads for my site, I would see something like: http://www.bing.com/search?q=I+Love+Highfives in the Page Banner was Clicked From field.
- Extremely high conversion rates. Keep an eye on the Affiliate Timespan report for any uncharacteristically high conversion rate percentages. If you notice an Affiliate with a percentage rate above 40% for example, maybe an indication of trademark bidding or trademark plus bidding (your domain name plus a phrase like coupon or deal).
- Perform a Search. When you search your domain name in the search engines, are there any ads that appear in the sponsored spots that don’t belong to you?
Is trademark bidding something you want to allow every Affiliate in your program to do? That’s something for each Merchant to decide and consider when planning what is best for their program. There are certain cases or circumstances were it makes sense for Merchants to harness the power of their Affiliates to leverage paid search efforts, but there are also many cases where trademark bidding is abused and an unnecessary expense for the Merchant.
- Affiliates become paid search team. If you are not currently working with an in-house paid search team some Merchants welcome their Affiliate partners to take on the cost of paid search where the ad owner, or Affiliate in this case, is taking on the cost per click of the ad. Whereas the Merchant is only paying the Affiliate when someone makes a purchase after clicking on the Affiliate link.
- Dominate ad space. This is especially true if the Merchant has competing retailers bidding on the brand as well. The theory of thought here is that a Merchant would rather have their own Affiliates in the sponsored ad space directing traffic to their site, rather than having competitor bidding on their brand name and driving traffic to a competing site.
- Drives up the cost of the term. If the Merchant is already paying for search ads on their brand name, allowing Affiliates to do the same can drive the cost of the ad up. The Merchant then is essentially competing with themselves for a trademarked term.
- Brand confusion. If a merchant is not closely monitoring the ads, you may run into cases where the Affiliate’s ad message is not in alignment with what Merchant wants. For example, does the ad reference a sale that doesn’t actually exist, or are there multiple ads claiming to be the “Official” site.
Should you decide to allow Affiliates to bid on your brand name, here a few tips to consider:
- Select just a few trusted Affiliates the exclusive right to conduct in PPC bidding. This will help you monitor the relationship and maintain some level of control over ad strategy.
- Work together with the Affiliate on ad copy to ensure that the display ad is in line with your message and consistent with branding. You may even consider providing Affiliates with sample ad copy for their use.
- Maintain your URL. Have your Affiliate use their own site for the display URL in the ad. This way if you do your own paid search ads, you can maintain a top position.
- Speaking of top positions, consider placing bid limits on terms you also purchase. This way your Affiliates are not outbidding you or driving the cost of the ad up.
- Drive the ad to a special landing page rather than direct linking. You can use the new ShareASale Storefront feature to make this really easy for your Affiliate if they don’t have a site created already for your specific product or service. With the Storefront feature, you can easily build a nice looking landing page for your Affiliates. All they need is to host the URL and you’re good to go.
Which ever decision you decide is best for your program in regards to trademark bidding, be sure to always outline your program’s policy in your agreement. Go to the “My Account” menu item and click on the “Edit Settings” icon (https://shareasale.com/m-account.cfm). The link to your program agreement is located just below the Program Bio and above the Search Keywords.
Please keep in mind that when you make edits to your agreement, there is a 7 day minimum before the new terms will become effective. This gives your affiliates time to agree to the new terms that will be put into place. Also, an automatic email will be sent to all current affiliates in the program whenever there are changes made to the program agreement.